Produced by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor with Night Vale Presents and starting in 2012, “Welcome to Night Vale” introduced listeners to the quirky, sometimes terrifying, biweekly community radio show of a fictional desert town. It is the podcast that breathed new life into the world of audio dramas.
With a narrative style described as “eldritch” and “lovecraftian” by its own creators, this podcast manages to be both soothing and intriguing to listen to. The show is narrated by Cecil Gershwin Palmer (Cecil Baldwin), who chronicles the disturbing day-to-day life of Night Vale residents.
Night Vale is no ordinary town. Upon first listening to the podcast, it quickly becomes apparent that in lieu of regular citizens, Night Vale instead has plenty of “hooded figures,” an army of secret police, floating cats and actual flesh-and-blood angels just hanging around. Not only that, but most residents do not believe in the existence of mountains. There is nothing familiar about “Welcome to Night Vale,” but that’s really just part of its appeal.
The podcast has also received a substantial amount of praise for its inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters and racial diversity. Cecil’s love interest, Carlos (Dylan Marron) is introduced in the first episode and many of the first episodes emphasize the romance between these two characters.
Other recurring characters include Meghan, a child who was born in the form of a human hand and struggles to communicate with her peers, and the Apache Tracker, a white man who appears periodically dressed in Native American clothing and who townspeople repeatedly call out as being racist for his appropriation of a culture that does not belong to him.
Initially the episodes seem like any other town’s biweekly radio broadcasts might: unconnected, and geared towards the needs of the residents. However, as the narrative progresses, different elements of episodes connect and create a single, beautifully formed storyline.
“Welcome to Night Vale” is an epic story tailor-made for today’s political atmosphere. It is about ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) townspeople fighting to protect their rights and way of life in the face of an unknowable enemy.
Unlike many podcasts today, “Welcome to Night Vale” doesn’t do regular seasons. There are now over 100 episodes, with new ones still being posted on a biweekly basis, though this shouldn’t intimidate you. Most story arcs are under 15 episodes in length. You can listen to “Welcome to Night Vale” on iTunes, or find more options here.
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Welcome to the Nightvale